Maybe the Traverse City Beach Bums are on to something. If you want to beat the Wild Things, then get a starting pitcher who went to a high school in the WPIAL.
Michael Devine, a native of Cheswick and a graduate of Springdale High School, pitched five innings and earned his first professional win Thursday night as Traverse City completed a three-game series sweep of the Wild Things, 5-3, at Consol Energy Park.
Devine’s win came on the heels of Scott Dunn’s 6 1/3 shutout innings in the Beach Bums’ 9-0 win Wednesday night. Dunn also played his high school baseball in the WPIAL at South Side Beaver.
“It feels pretty good to get that first professional win,” said Devine, a sidearming right-hander who played his college ball at VMI and is in his second season with Traverse City.
“I had to battle. My pitch count got up after the first two innings. Then, I just wanted to throw the ball over the plate, let the guys behind me do the work and battle through five or six innings.”
Devine, who might have set a stadium record for most tickets left at the gate for family and friends (26), gave up solo homers to Stewart Ijames in the first inning and A.J. Nunziato in the second, but he settled down and retired the final eight batters he faced. Devine allowed three runs on four hits and two walks. He struck out five before turning the game over to the Beach Bums’ bullpen, which tossed four shutout innings as the Wild Things’ offense hit the snooze button after the second inning.
Washington, which has lost five of the first six on the current nine-game homestand, did have plenty of scoring opportunities. The Wild Things had a runner on third base with only one out in both the third and eighth innings and failed to score each time.
“We’re not disciplined enough at the plate to swing at strikes,” Washington manager Bart Zeller said. “Then we fall behind in the count, and we’re at the mercy of the pitcher, having to swing at his secondary pitches.”
In the third, the Wild Things might have been able to give Devine an early exit as they had runners on the corners with one out while trailing 4-3. However, designated hitter Mark Samuelson, hit a sharp grounder right at first baseman Chase Burch that held Shain Stoner at third base. A flyout ended the threat.
“Mark Samuelson couldn’t have hit that ball any harder, and the only place he could have hit it and not scored a run was right at Burch,” Zeller said.
Still trailing 4-3 in the eighth, Washington had runners on second and third with one out. Reliever Nick Capito, who earned his fourth save, struck out Ijames. Pinch-hitter Jovan Rosa was then walked to load the bases, but again Capito got a big strikeout, this time against C.J. Beatty.
“There is such a thing a two-strike mentality when you’re hitting,” Zeller said. “We’ve got to cut down on our swing and go to the opposite field.”
Traverse City took the lead for good by scoring three runs in the second inning after having two outs and nobody on base. Sean Gusrang hit a solo homer to get things going for the Beach Bums, Jeremy Brooks singled, Ryan Still was hit by a pitch, D’Marcus Ingram walked and Jose Vargas smacked a two-run double.
The Wild Things tied the score, 3-3, in the bottom of the second. Rookie Scott Kalamar’s first professional hit drove in Beatty. After Kalamar was caught stealing, Nunziato homered.
Traverse City went ahead for good with an unearned run in the third against Washington starter Shawn Smith (3-2) as an error on a ground ball allowed Carlo Testa to score from first base.
The score remained 4-3 until Ingram, who is batting only .173, hit a solo homer with one out in the ninth off reliever Orlando Santos.
Washington had only five hits, just one against Capito and reliever Burny Mitchem.
“Traverse City is a nice ballclub, but it’s not the kind of team that is imposing. We should be able to compete with them every night,” Zeller said.
Before the game, Washington released outfielder Rogelio Noris, who was batting .222 with no home runs and three RBI in 36 at-bats. Norris hit 21 home runs last year and was acquired in an offseason trade with Gateway. He did not arrive in Washington until after the season started because of a visa delay. … Traverse City has won eight in a row and nine of 11. … Banks is a rookie from Youngstown State, where his head coach was Wild Things bench coach Rich Pasquale.